Bounce house safety takes center stage after weekend accident


TOWN OF NIAGARA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Gusting winds lifted a bounce house about 40 feet into the air, from a birthday party on Saturday, carrying the inflatable playhouse a short distance and hanging it on high voltage wires, kicking up sparks.

Witnesses said the wind was like a tornado, as the airborne bounce house pitched one way and then in another direction from a backyard birthday party on Norman St. in the Town of Niagara. Fortunately no one was in the bounce house, and no one lost electricity.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission shared some sobering statistics regarding inflatable play devices. CPSC figures show, 3,991 people were injured by inflatable amusements, from 2003 to 2013, and 12 others were killed.

How does something like Saturday’s accident happen? Michael Gersitz, the owner of Party in Buffalo Bounce House Rentals said, the bounce house was probably not staked to the ground, as the manufacturer recommends.

“Basically you need to secure it to the ground, just like the manufacturer suggests. Normally they give you 24′ stakes, 18′ stakes to secure it down to the ground. That way it doesn’t move on you.”

There are no government standards for bounce houses, but Gersitz said the inflatable devices he rents out follow voluntary standards set by the industry, and there are some bounce houses that are made cheaply without regard for those standards.

Bounce houses, or “inflatable play devices” are among the consumer products tested at the independent labs at Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services in Amherst Their test results are then incorporated into international industry standards.

Gersitz said when he rents a bounce house his crew delivers it and does all the setup, then at the end of the event, takes down the house without ever involving the consumer.

The close call at Saturday’s birthday party did not involve a rented bounce house. The child’s father told News 4 he owned the inflatable playhouse, and he set it up himself. He declined an interview, but did say the high winds just seemed to come out of nowhere.

High winds are as much factor with bounce house safety, as proper setup, Gersitz added, “Make sure the weather is nice. If you are having high winds, it is probably not a good time to get a bounce house. Anything over 15-20 mph winds, it is probably not safe to have an inflatable device because things like this can happen.”

The CPSC has an Amusement Ride Safety Bulletin to serve as guidance for renting, setting up, and using bounce houses but there are no federal regulations.

Those inflatable houses that are part of amusement rides and carnivals are generally regulated by the states. You can find the CPSC guidelines here, before buying or renting a bounce house.

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